Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick has insisted he remains on good terms with Geordan Murphy despite the sudden departure of the director of rugby from the club last Friday, a development that was criticised by club legends including Austin Healey.  

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At the club since 1997, multi trophy-winning player Murphy had gone into coaching at the club under Richard Cockerill. He then replaced Matt O’Connor, Cockerill’s successor, at the helm in 2018 and was elevated from head coach to director during the suspension of the 2019/20 season to accommodate the arrival of Borthwick, who had been working as an assistant at Eddie Jones’ England.

Borthwick started work on July 1 and just 19 weeks later, after the Leicester form failed to pick up in the restarted campaign, ties were cut with Murphy whose contract was due to run until the end of the 2020/21.

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Having announced that exit via a media release last Friday, Leicester held their first media session since then on Wednesday which was attended by Borthwick and skipper Tom Youngs. Ask if he could elaborate on what had happened, Borthwick said: “I can’t tell you anything of note. 

“Club management talked about clarity on the plan going forward beyond the end of the (2020/21) season and the club management/board gave the decision they had come to and that Geordan decided that he wanted to leave now rather than (stay) until the end of the season. That’s the details of the situation.

“The relationship was good,” he continued. “The phone calls I have had with Geordan in the last few days, it continues to be. Geordan, first and foremost, is a tremendous person. I enjoyed the time we had working together and how deeply he cares about Leicester Tigers and he will be continuing to support Leicester Tigers.”

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Youngs added: “The Geordan Murphy factor is there and that has been addressed and talked about and conversations go on, people come and chat to me about it… a lot of that was put to bed yesterday [Tuesday] in some regards when we met up and everyone is sort of moving on. 

“Like anything in sport, you put your focus into rugby when you are here. You look at that and when you go away you think about other things but really 100 per cent focus is towards getting ready to play Gloucester on Saturday.

“I have known Geordie since day dot when I came here and to see him not here is weird, don’t get me wrong. The guy has done a lot for Leicester Tigers and it just shows the professional sport, the professional world, it’s very ruthless. 

“Geordie did his utmost, a 100 per cent man, always wanted the best for Leicester Tigers and having spoken to him on the phone a few times over the weekend, he is digesting the news. Devastated, don’t get me wrong, but digesting it and throwing himself into other things.

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“I do think we are heading in the right direction,” continued Youngs. “We made some good building blocks last season. We had to swop the team around. Steve looked to grow our team and give some boys real experience.”

The exit of Murphy followed the recent loss of two assistant coaches, attack coach Rob Taylor and scrum coach Boris Stankovich. Borthwick said: “In the background, we are looking and making plans from the coaching perspective. In terms of management perspective (regarding the Murphy vacancy) that is not my area… you would have to ask board members, Andrea Pinchen, the CEO, to give clarity on that process.

“From a head coaching perspective we are very fortunate we have got two very good young coaches that have stepped up and joined coaching the first team. They have been around the first team since I came in on July 1, Matt Smith and Tom Harrison, and that’s what we are continuing with whilst processes are in place.”

Leicester were also adamant they will be able to fulfil their 2020/21 opening fixture following the reopening of their Oval Park training ground after it was shut to prevent the spread of a coronavirus outbreak. Some players won’t be available to play this weekend due to the virus, though.        

“We had enough cases that meant the right thing to do was to immediately close the training ground and players do individual training,” said Borthwick. “It was the right decision to ensure that we clamped down as quickly as we could on any spread of the virus… yeah, there are players who will be missing for various reasons, including the virus.”

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